24 May 2007

UNSW follows Warwick University out

"One of the things we'd learnt... is that geography is really important," said Fred Hilmer, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales. What kind of geography? Full essay.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another reason is UNSW's tuition fees. It is reported that it costs S$26 - 29k per year. With that kind of money I might as well go study in UNSW in Australia, and after that I can get my PR too.

Anonymous said...

singapore already has four universities; both NUS and NTU have many research institutes; the scope for another comprehensive university with research would seem low; I do not know where the over optimistic forecasts came from originally; it was envisaged that UNSW Singapore campus would have 15K students, 10K from overseas injecting 350M a year into the economy; when UNSW proposed a much reduced plan that would not produce the same financial injection, the deal was off

in my view, what is actually needed is a 2-year community college, like a polytechnic but providing liberal arts education, or first two years of university but operated in a much cheaper way, without research facilities, expensive teaching labs, large campus, highly paid professors, etc; graduates can fill positions that require better qualified people than A level but not degrees; they can also transfer credit to universities in an alternative, and cheaper, path to a degree (see http://inccos.com for longer explanation)

Anonymous said...

Just a quick look at the student numbers can reveal where the forecasting has gone awry. Currently the 148 students are less than half of the projected 300. Out of 300, 70% were to be foreign students and the remaining 30% Sporeans.

Right now 100 are Sporeans and only 48 are foreign students. This means that UNSW's target of 30% Sporeans (100 out of projected 300) has been reached. It is the foreign student numbers that are letting them down badly.

Now what this means for Spore's aspiration to be an education hub, attracting foreign students to come here, is very clear.

Anonymous said...

Why attract foreign universities to set up base here when you already have local unis already in place? Wouldn't it be a better idea to work on and expand current infrastructure rather than adding a whole new arm altogether? Form working relationships and partnerships with foreign universities yes, but setting up shop here? Apparently it doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that the Aussie U management team even opened a 'uni' in Singapore.
Those who can pay the FEES, can fly over to Australia, and study,and get PR status.
What purpose does it serve to have 'an overseas uni' in Singapore?
I don't know what demographic group of students the 'unis' are catering to?
One comment brought up by 25 May, 2007 07:43 makes sense.
However, the flexibility of credit harvesting, and transferring to accredited colleges is not available in Singapore.
The Singapore education system sieves out many potential 'success achievers' with their dragonian ed system.
and what group of graduates is the Singapore govt targetting for their labor force?
It makes no sense for 'foreign uni's to set up shop in Singapore, as when students are studying overseas, their chances of PR, work CV, and citizenship are almost guarenteed.
In view of this, what has 'foreign unis' who set up shop in Singapore have to offer? As it is, their study curriculum will be dictated by the MDA.
I guess the people who thought of this idea, and bringing in the 'foreign unis' did not take into consideration,ie..
the 'advantage factor'of getting PR status, and relatively high fees, and no accredited colleges to transfer credits, and of course...the 'human factor', the most impt one...- nothing to gain?
except walking to an 'Aussie U' two blocks from their home.
Silly, if you ask me.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Anon 25 May 11:37

I would be careful to draw conclusions from such small numbers, but yes, it does seem that what was well short of expectation was the foreign intake. The new Vice-Chancellor probably looked into the future and concluded that it would never rise by much.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Anon, 25 May 16:24

I don't think the curreiculum is "dictated" by the MDA...

But your point about the attractiveness of Australia is spot on. The trouble is that our civil servants think that Singapore is a very attractive place too and therefore that people from around the region would want to study in Singapore.

What my article hoped to point out is that this bitter experience shows how self-deluded this idea is. We're falling victim to our own propaganda "Singapore is best this and that", at considerable financial cost.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that while we think Aussie PR is more desirable (for Singaporeans), there are other Asians who desire getting a Singapore PR more than an Aussie one?

Also, costwise, I wonder if it's significantly more inexpensive to study in Singapore than Sydney for non-Singaporean students?

Say if a Vietnamese or Chinese student could afford to study in Singapore, won't Sydney be equally affordable?

Anonymous said...

After just one semester, University of New South Wales decided to close its Singapore campus, with enrolled students being offered transfers to the Sydney campus with financial assistance to defray the additional cost involved. What happened to cause this drastic decision, which must be highly embarrassing to both the University and its Singapore backer the Economic Development Board? Even now, construction is still proceeding on what was meant to be UNSW Asia's permanent campus at Changi, and it is estimated that the cost of the land and building so far is nearly $250M. While the initial student numbers might have fallen short (150 instead of 300 for the first semester), it is still early days, and the decision meant that UNSW does not believe a desired trend reversal is possible.

For the EDB, the venture is eventually to produce a university of student population 15,000, 2/3 of them from outside Singapore; with tuition around 25K and living cost, 10,000 foreign students would inject $350M into the Singapore economy. When UNSW presented revised plans with target population of a few thousand, the venture was no longer viable from EDB's point of view.

UNSW has a record of being innovative in its development. When the MBA degree was till a relatively obscure concept in the country, it started the Australian Graduate School of Management in 1977, which grew to be the premium MBA school in the region. It set up a consulting company Unisearch to market its expertise and research results to the industry, and developed UNSW Global unit to recruit foreign students, with a Foundation Year that bring them to matriculation standard. These and other worked brought it to the top of the ranking lists of Australian universities, surpassing older but more conservative institutions like Sydney and Melbourne. Thus, it went into the Singapore venture with considerable confidence.

In my view, this confidence has been the cause of the venture's failure. Instead of an incremental approach, starting with a small infrastructure and low cost activities and adding to these as student numbers increased, it invested heavily in a large operational set up, and in regional recruitment campaigns, instead of starting first with a mainly local student population, with much lower cost recruitment efforts as they would be within a single city, and gradually expand outwards. In fact, it met the initial target of 100 local students, but got only 50 of the 200 foreign students it hoped to attract. While many students in China, India and Indonesia might be interested in a degree from UNSW, they might find it more worthwhile to pay a little more and go to the Sydney campus, in order to experience life in Australian.

According to UNSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer, who flew in to Singapore to break the news, "This venture was, perhaps in hindsight, a little bit too ambitious ... we didn't have the balance-sheet strength to undertake the venture," he said. "Geography is really important. When a student says, 'I want an Australian degree', what he really means is, 'I want the experience of living in Sydney' … The lesson we learnt is a student comes as much to a geographic destination as they do to a brand of a university," he said. Surely these are things UNSW already knew before starting the venture, but they probably thought the EDB offer of a brand new campus and other support too good to refuse.

I cannot help but to quote Brutus saying to Cassius in "Julius Caesar":

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures

Posted by: sgsociety.com

Fox said...


Consider this for example: students would rather study in Sydney, the city with the world's largest and most flamboyant gay and lesbian mardi gras, than in straight-laced Singapore where homosexuality is banned, and censorship used to prevent young minds from being "infected".

This also demolishes the idea that we can afford to be 2 steps behind the West when it comes to social change and opening up, as the government had in the past suggested. The UNSW and Warwick cases show such thinking to be totally incompatible with being a global city able to attract free-spirited people. Why should people go to the second-best if they can go to the best?


I think the reason why UNSW pulled out has less to do with Singapore's illiberal social climate than the fact that there are cheaper options in Malaysia. For example, Monash University and The University of Nottingham have campuses around KL which charges fees half of that of UNSW. Certainly, Malaysia is no more liberal than Singapore but it has no trouble maintaining a sizeable population of foreign students on these campuses.

Teck Soon said...

I read somewhere that the university claimed that academic freedom or human rights in Singapore had nothing to do with the decision. I wonder if that's the truth. That type of statement reveals nothing about the closed-door discussions that went on when making the decision. Among Australians, Singapore has quite a bad reputation, and academics are not blind to issues of human rights and academic freedom. So while they may publicly claim that financial concerns were the only factor, the bad reputation of Singapore probably made their decision a little easier. I'd imagine there are even a few profs and students at UNSW in Australia who are pleased to see that their university has gotten out of a repressive country.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Fox said,
> there are cheaper options in
> Malaysia. For example, Monash
> University and The University of
> Nottingham have campuses around
> KL

Interesting! And why have our "world-class" media not ferretted out such information?

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

From Wikipedia, I learn that Monash Malaysia has 5 schools: Arts and Sciences, Business and Commerce, Engineering, IT, Medicine and Health. Unfortunately, I can't find out its enrolment - it's own website is currently down.

I wonder though whether it primarily serves Malaysians, particularly Chinese Malaysians who may not be keen on the state universities. Does it market itself to other countries in the region, and if so, how sucessful has it been? These are the questions we need answers for, in order to judge whether there is even a regional market (other than Malaysia) to tap into, as the Sg govt expects.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

The Univ of Nottingham in Malaysia was started in 2000 and recently moved into its own purpose-built campus. It currently has 2000 students, according to Wikipedia. It has 3 schools: Health and Biological Sciences, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Social Sciences and Education.

Again, one wonders if it primarily serves the domestic Malaysian market rather than attempt to attract from the region, and therefore what lessons it holds for Singapore.

Anonymous said...

the offshore university campuses in malaysia mainly attract local students; they were not seen as a kind of service export, whereas the UNSW singapore campus, in envisaging 10K foreign students injecting 350M into the singapore economy and a much smaller local student population, is meant to be more of an export industry than local education provider

further, because malaysia has a much larger population, and each offshore university campus is small, even after you add them up, they do not constitute any significant siphoning off of students from local universities; in singapore, letting 15K students go to a new university, instead of the existing ones, meant much reduced expansion opportunities for local universities; in short, the competitive scenarios in malaysis and singapore are quite different

sgsociety.com

Anonymous said...

> the university claimed that academic freedom or human rights in Singapore had nothing to do with the decision

I think a more significant factor is "do we really want to spend money/effort helping singapore to become a reginoal education hub?", i.e., business competition is more of a consideration, but political differences probably pushed the same way

Anonymous said...

yes - indeed its interesting to see that foreign unis have been successful in our neighbouring countries. i believe its not an initiative that was driven by the Msian govt - but more as a result of supply and demand.

face it, Singapore, is a planned economy. but our planned economy is based on doing things on our terms, rather than a free market terms, and run by people who are technocrats, NOT from the businessworld, but rather scholars and ex-military personnel.

The focus of turning Singapore into "hubs" was meant to pull in foreign money. All the recent decisions were clearly to meet that need:

1. reduce corp tax (invite external big business, while increasing GST which screws local tourism and retail)

2. Biomedical hub - invite the likes of John Hopkins instead of expanding NUH and the various research institutes here. we invested heavily into creating the manpower, which now dont have the right jobs.

3. Education hub. attract foreign unis to Singapore, rather than prmoting and expanding our own. having said that, when we do try selling our unis, i dont think people want to come. remember that NUS School of Business ads that went around on youtube - but never ever shown in Singapore? those were embarrasing. probably the ad campaign was given to a foreign talent to produce.

4. Financial hub. I read from articles in HK that Singapore heavily subsidises the banks to come to singapore (the comment being - investment banks are quite likely the LAST industry that need any sort of funding. If they dont want to come to Singapore, they probably have legitimate reasons).

5. MICE hub. look at World Bank event. to attract the money, we screw the local retailers when all the restrictions were placed around the event. let's all look forward to the F1, another venture to attract foreign money at the expense of the small-time local businesses.

6. Related to MICE is Entertainment Hub, with the casinos opening. this was at expense of unhappiness from the citizens.

7. Arts Hub, with the building of Esplanade. erm, with all the restrictions to performance arts etc, i dont know how we can do this. good events are priced out of the average singaporeans' pockets. Shows cant sustain in Singapore over a long period of time.

Does this "build it and then sell it, and they will come" model work for Singapore? or should we just relax on all the restrictions and guidelines and let market forces take its course?

aygee

Anonymous said...

It is extremely strange that another major EDB cockup seemed to have been overlooked. One that is probably similar in the way EDB negotiate deals that are similar to UNSW: Asia Aerospace.

I don't have the full facts but would not be surprise if this was true. Namely, in the Asia Aerospace deal, EDB probably thought that an event the scale and prestigue such as Asia Aerospace would be such that no one would be stupid to pull out. I think what they did was to expect the show organiser to commit in perpetuity to Singapore. And unrealistic business proposition, which result in organiser leaving and thus depriving of tourist receipts, and the MICA trade.

Likewise, with UNSW I suppose EDB thought that having committed the deal, no one would pull the plug. And like in the Asia Aerospace deal decided not to back down from what they thought were "immutable" goals. I suppose the kiasuism might of crept in: deviation from goal means failure. And failure is unacceptable. So it must win at all cost.

In the end, trying to win at all cost, ended up with loosing all.

Anonymous said...

the two cases are not comparable; asia aerospace pulled out after running exhibitions in Changi over a number of years, and EDB has the infrastructre and customer databases in place, so will just change the name and set up its own organization to operate it; NSW campus didnt really get started, nor can it just be turned into another local university

sgsociety.com

aliene said...

Being a UNSW alumni myself, the news was quite shocking and felt embarrassing to a certain degree.

I shrudder to think how things would be if I were a fresh graduate, and people will only remember UNSW as "the uni that closed down".

From personaly experience, UNSW Sydney has always had a good record of drawing in international students and actually had a sizable foreign student population. In my time there, I met many foreign students like myself.

How come, when they set up UNSW ASIA, there was such low international student enrollment? All signs seem to point that overall international student numbers in Singapore are on the uptrend, isn't it?

"singapore already has four universities; both NUS and NTU have many research institutes; the scope for another comprehensive university with research would seem low; I do not know where the over optimistic forecasts came from originally; it was envisaged that UNSW Singapore campus would have 15K students, 10K from overseas injecting 350M a year into the economy;"

I agree with this...

I just feel bad for the affected students. Living expenses in Sydney are quite high. While I don't know how much subsidy is being given, the living costs can easily be another AUD20,000 out of the students pocket per year.

Anonymous said...

Many of you are making comments about Monash Malaysia or Nottingham Malaysia with little understanding of education politics and dynamics in Malaysia. The education scenario between Singapore and Malaysia is vastly different.

It is hard to get into Malaysia's public universities for critical courses(example, medicine, engineering, accountancy) because of the quota system which reservces places for the Malays and the remaining few places cannot meet the demand of the non-Malays, even though they may be straight A students. Also, many staight A students are offered course which is not their first choice. A straight A student may be offered agricultural science instead of Medicine. Hence many would go to private universities like Monash or Nottingham and others if they can afford it.

Also, private universities like Monash and Nottingham is in demand compare to top local public unis because of language of instruction. Public universities are taught in Malay, whereas private unis like Monash is in English. Again, this creates demand for private universities.

Public universities in Malaysia are not rated highly which also provides private universities such as Monash opportunities for more enrolment.

As for cost, university staffs are paid in Ringgit. Not Sin or AUS $. Dollar for dollar the fees are the same. A business couse in Monash is about 20K per year, but in ringgit. So for foreigners, it would be cheaper to study in Malaysia. Cost of living is also lower.

Monash has about 3000 students and Nottingham about 2000. As for Monash, about 30% are foreign students, mostly from Indonesia.